Behaviorspeak: Glossary of Terms in Applied Behavior Analysis
Selected Basic Terms taken from the text. Text may be purchased on Amazon.com Newman, K. Reeve, S. Reeve, Ryan
ISBN # 0-9668528-4-2
(Click to expand)
An acronym used to refer to the field of Applied Behavior Analysis, the application of the science of learning to socially significant behavior. It is also the acronym used to refer to the professional organization dedicated to the field, the international Association for Behavior Analysis. (see www.abainternational.org)
Acronym for the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills, a language assessment tool in common usage within Applied Behavior Analytic programs. Created by Drs. James W. Partington and Mark L. Sundberg.
A very important component of ABA, this refers to the ethical principle that a treatment procedure must be demonstrated to be effective in order for it to be used. Such a demonstration requires an objective collection of DATA both before and after the implementation of the procedure, and its effect on the behavior in question.
A hallmark of ABA procedures, this is the requirement that clients need to learn skills through interacting with their environment (instructor, materials, etc.), as opposed to simply sitting back and observing and listening. The child must demonstrate the skill.
A -> B-> C Description:
As description of a response in terms of the Antecedent (A), Behavior (B), and Consequence (C) of the response. An antecedent is the stimulus that immediately precedes the behavior. The behavior is a description of the response in terms of its topography. The consequence is the immediate outcome of the behavior.
Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASDs):
This term generally refers to a class of developmental disorders typically appearing by age 3. ASDs include Autism, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Rett's Syndrome, Asperger's Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). The word "spectrum" refers to the idea than in each of these disorders; the adaptive functioning of the individual may range along a continuum from (low to high). Typically, skill levels are assessed along the following three major areas:
- spoken and non-spoken communication skills
- social interaction skills
- problems related to adaptive behavior (such as inflexibility and pre-occupations with repetitiveness
Autism, Asperger's Syndrome and PDD-NOS are also part of a broader class of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), defined in the DSM-IV TR. The term "pervasive" implies that the effects of the disorder are observed throughout many aspects of the person's behavioral repertoire.
A person who practices the science of ABA. A Board Certified Behavior Analyst is a person who practices the science of ABA who has satisfied all of the requirements to acquire the "BCBA" and therefore call him or herself a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Requirements include completing a requisite number of hours of University-level course work in the science of behavior, completing a period of internship under the supervision of a BCBA, and passing the required written examination. To maintain certification once it is achieved, there are various continuing education requirements. See www.BACB.com
Little Star Center strongly recommends that parents verify all claims of credentials with the BACB and only engage in a program that is actively supervised by a BCBA.
This term is sometimes used interchangeably with ABA. Most practitioners of ABA avoid the use of this term, however, as it is associated with the use of aversives by some, and a belief that the term does not emphasize the analysis of data that is the hallmark of the discipline of Applied Behavior Analysis.
Absolutely NOT advocated by ABA, these are methods involved in changing a person's behavior through some form of punishment (physical pain), deprivation, withholding safety, food, rest or comfort), and/or extremely powerful reinforcers that are not socially acceptable (allowing a person to break the law).
Please do not confuse the use of coercive procedures with ABA.
Behavior whose function is the transmission of information from one individual to another. May be verbal, written, symbolic, or gestural.
From of behavior analytic perspective, the term means to behave in an original and productive manner. For example, a child may build a small person out of his set of blocks even though he has never been explicitly taught to do this particular activity. Additionally, creativity referred to some mysterious inherently quality of a person that was often attributed to that individual's personality. Research in this area, however, has shown that by teaching a person to engage in a variety of responses, "creative" behavior may increase (generalization).
A requirement of ABA, this refers to the fact that teaching and behavior management decisions are based upon information that is systematically gathered during the teaching/working process. (See accountability)
A form of teaching that is heavily based upon behavioral principles. Students are taught in groups that are made up of students at roughly the same academic level, there is scripted and fast paced presentation of materials, students respond as a group and individually, and there is a very high degree of student-instructor interaction with error correction and positive reinforcement for correct responding. Similar to personalized system of instruction, there is an emphasis on very well-designed and researched modules that students must master before moving on to the next level.
Discrete Trial Teaching:
Discrete Trail Teaching (DTT) is the A->B->C relationship as applied to teaching new skills. It is necessary because of the difficulties many people with disabilities have in learning information from the everyday environment. Each "trial" is a separate attempt to teach a new behavior or reinforce a preciously learned behavior. The most common approaches are "errorless learning" and "no-no prompting". Regardless of teaching strategy, check what the student can do (baseline) and program accordingly in terms of what the student needs to learn to be able to function in less restrictive settings.
As skills are learned in discrete trial, loose teaching should be used to foster generalization of responding. The goal of DTT is to improve lagging skills. When the student no longer needs this intensive instruction, efforts should be made to normalize teaching and introduce peer group participation as soon as possible. DTT should NOT be aversive to the student. Varying the teaching situation (location, teacher, stimuli) will make the teaching more interested and foster generalization. In the popular mind, DTT has BECOME applied behavior analysis. People think that DTT is all that there is to ABA, when in fact it is only one of its myriad techniques.
DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual):
Manual published by the American Psychiatric Association that categorizes and provides diagnostic criteria for behavioral and psychological disorders. The manual is periodically updated. At the time of this writing, the current edition is the DSM IV-TR (Fourth Edition, Text Revision)
A language difficulty common to the autistic-spectrum disorders, as well as some other disabilities, echolalia refers to the tendency to repeat previously heard speech. This can be:
- Immediate - you say "what color?" and the person immediately repeats back "what color?"
- Delayed - the person repeats an utterance heard minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or even years ago.
Important note: echolalia can be very misleading without careful observation. One might mistake an echolalic response for a more spontaneous statement. Another important note is that although echolalia may be quite inappropriate, it is also "good practice" for the student.
This refers to a form of Discrete Trial Teaching. In errorless learning, the student is not allowed to make a mistake on any given trial. If the student does not respond correctly, or does nothing, he is prompted to perform the target response before a new trial begins. If possible, he is prevented from making the incorrect response in the first place through careful prompting. This increases the probability that the student will have more opportunities to make a correct response and receive reinforcement.
Function of Behavior:
Generally speaking, the variable maintaining a given behavior (e., g., what might be reinforcing the behavior?) Common functions of behaviors include activity reinforcers, attention seeking, avoidance, communication, edible reinforcers, escape, tangibles, and sensory reinforcers.
One of the central processes of ABA, functional analysis involves steps taking to answer the central question of "why is he doing that?" Note that the question is NOT "why did he start?" Sometimes behavior can start for one reason, but then continue for other reasons. To be more scientific about it, we would state the question as "what are the variables maintaining the behavior now?" See "Behaviorspeak" for a description of the 5 steps to conducting a functional analysis.
IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act):
The law provides for and guarantees a free and appropriate education (FAPE) for children identified as having special needs. Central to this goal is the development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each child identified as having special needs.
Generally speaking, incidental teaching refers to the teaching that "takes advantage" of naturally occurring opportunities to teach, often with student-initiated activities. In clinical usage, this is often used when discussing generalization training, with skills being practiced with stimuli "accidentally encountered in generalized settings (actually pre-arranged conditions).
One of the hallmarks of ABA, this refers to designing teaching programs only after conducting a baseline measurement of student skills, and designing behavior management strategies only after completing a functional analysis. In any ABA program, a student's programs should only be based upon assessments conducted with that student.
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE):
This refers to the most normalized environment in which the student can make academic and social gains. What is defined as least restrictive environment is a very controversial area, with decisions having to be made regarding the importance of academic functioning, social functioning, impact on other students, etc. The goal of any educational program is the help the student to become ready to function and make gains in the least restrictive environment possible.
Least Restrictive Treatment Model:
This is an ethical stance subscribed to by behavior analysis. It refers to the general principle that one does not implement a more aversive procedure before experimentally demonstrating that all less aversive and more reinforcing procedures have been attempted and proved ineffective for addressing the behavior in question.
The proper name of O. Ivar Lovaas, clinician and researcher. His groundbreaking work using ABA with children with autism has been so influential that some people outside of the field refer to intensive ABA-based interventions for people with autism as "Lovaas therapy" or "doing Lovaas".
Only employees of the Lovaas Institute for Early Intervention can legitimately claim to be consultants for providing "Lovaas based" ABA. We strongly advise that parents and schools check the credentials of anyone who represents himself or herself as an ABA therapist or consultant.
Refers to the retention of learned skills over time. Also refers to procedures whose purpose is to ensure that skills that have been acquired are not lost. Also referred to be some as "generalization across time".
Refers to the conditions under which we call a skill mastered. In DTT, for example, one might set the mastery criterion at 90% accuracy or above, across three consecutive sessions for stability and across at least two interventionists for generalization.
This is an attempt to combine bits and pieces of ABA with other approaches. This is no longer ABA. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
Natural Environment Teaching (NET):
This term refers to a teaching approach wherein the child's current activities and interested determine the teaching strategies. It is often contrasted with Discrete Trial Teaching, and emphasizes such factors as the child's motivational state, is "looser" and stresses naturally occurring reinforcers. Although some people use the term Incidental Teaching interchangeably with NET, the term Incidental Teaching is also used in everyday conversation to refer to a more Discrete Trial methodology, but within generalized settings.
Pivotal Response Training:
Refers to a general approach to teaching that emphasizes certain responses considered crucial to an individual's development. The responses that are chosen tend to be those that bring the individual into contact with a great deal of other social behavior and reinforcement. The ability to greet or share, for example, might be considered pivotal responses, in that they bring the individual into contact with potent sources of social reinforcement. See the work of Robert and Lynn Koegel and colleagues.
The contingency between a specific behavior and its consequence that leads to a future increase in the probability of the target behavior.
A consequence that increases the future probability of the behavior that immediately preceded it. In other words, if you engage in a behavior, and that act produces a reinforcing outcome, you are more likely to perform that behavior in the future. It is important to note that not all consequences are reinforcers. A consequence s only a reinforcer if it is contingent presentation leads to a future increase in the probability of the behavior that preceded the consequence. It is also important to note that reinforcement has nothing to do with what you intend when you deliver a consequence, and that we sometimes accidentally reinforce a behavior.
Sometimes inappropriately referred to as stimming as a shorthand, this term refers to behavior whose presumed function is to provide some sort of sensory feedback. This term should be used sparingly - it can be misleading. Calling a behavior "self-stimulatory" might lead one to believe that the behavior is occurring for simple sensory feedback, when in fact there may be a very different function. Much "self-stimulatory" behavior actually serves as an attention seeking, avoidance or communication function. As with all other areas of ABA, a functional analysis must be considered before the behavior can be understood. Also referred to a stereotypic behavior.
Scientist and philosopher whose writings form much of the background for ABA thinking and procedures.
This is the concept referring to the degree to which a behavior change makes a difference in the life of the individual. This is sometimes contrasted with Statistical Significance. A change in rate from 2,000 to 1,600 daily instances of self-injurious behavior may be statistically significant, but would probably not be socially significant. See definition of ABA.
This is a written list of all steps that must be accomplished to perform a particular behavior. It is important to note that each task analysis must be individually constructed. Depending upon the functioning level of an individual, a task analysis for a skill, like setting the table, might include ten steps, or it might include 100 steps. The key is to begin teaching with a given task analysis, and to watch where progress stops (the individual is not mastering the skill.) The step at which progress has stopped must then be broken down into smaller steps. It is rare to begin teaching with one task analysis and to finish with the same task analysis. They must constantly be re-written, depending upon the student progress. The same task analysis will rarely be effective for two different individuals.
A book written by B.F. Skinner that describes a behavioral approach to language. It emphasizes that communication is a behavior that follows the same laws and principles as other forms of behavior. More recently, the term "verbal behavior" has also been informally applied to a teaching approach that emphasizes Skinner's analysis of language. A similar term, Applied Verbal Behavior, has been used by some to refer to this approach.
VB-Mapp (Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program):
The VB-MAPP is a criterion-referenced assessment tool, curriculum guide, and skill tracking system that is designed for children with autism, and other individuals who demonstrate language delays. The VB-MAPP is based on B.F. Skinner’s (1957) analysis of verbal behavior, established developmental milestones, and research from the field of behavior analysis. There are five components of the VB-MAPP, and collectively they provide a baseline level of performance, a direction for intervention, a system for tracking skill acquisition, a tool for outcome measures and other language research projects, and a framework for curriculum planning. (Sundberg, 2008) Included in the VB-Mapp is the Barriers Learning Assessment, which is a tool that is used to identify learning and language barriers that, according to Sundberg, could “impede a child’s progress”. Once these barriers have been identified, additional observation and assessing needs to be performed in order to develop and implement appropriate learning and behavioral interventions.
© 2012-2013 Little Star Center, Inc. All rights reserved.